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What is a Legal Retainer and How Does it Work? 

 Posted on November 18, 2021 in Divorce

arlington heights divorce lawyerGetting divorced involves learning an entirely new vocabulary. Discovery? Allocation? Retainers? Although the amount of new information can seem overwhelming, taking it step-by-step and having a great divorce attorney can help you understand everything you need to know about the divorce process

But most people who are getting a divorce have never hired an attorney before, so even that can seem daunting. In this blog post, we will explain the basics of how someone can retain an attorney and how attorneys usually get paid. 

How Do Lawyers Get Paid in a Divorce Case? 

Not everybody has the same needs or budget in their divorce, so hiring an attorney can look a little different for everybody. Many attorneys offer hourly rates, limited scope representation, contingency fee agreements, or flat rate representation. However, for most people, the process of getting the help of an attorney means paying a retainer first. 

Technically, attorneys are retained - not hired. This is an old term from when there were much fewer attorneys and people who anticipated legal problems would “retain” an attorney if they needed them. Today, even though there are many lawyers in every state, we still use the words “retain” and “retainer.” 

A retainer is the money a client pays to an attorney to ensure that attorney’s future services and to preclude the attorney from doing something that would conflict with the client’s interest, like working for their spouse. There are several different types of retainers. 

Types of Legal Retainers

  • Advance Fee Retainers - This is the most common type of retainer used today. Clients pay an attorney an advance fee - perhaps $5,000 - and as the attorney works, he or she draws money from the retainer. The attorney keeps track of his or her time and if the retainer is used entirely, a client may need to pay more. Any unused funds are refunded to the client at the end of the case. 

  • Flat Rate Retainers - Flat rate retainers allow clients to pay a set fee and then get their cases taken care of entirely. They can be clean, straightforward, and give clients the comfort of knowing they can contact their attorney without being billed for the call. Flat rate retainers can be very convenient, but they are not appropriate for all cases. 

  • Security Retainers - Security retainers are paid by the client and then deposited in a trust where the retainer can earn interest that belongs to the client. 

  • Classic Retainers or Consulting Fees - Clients pay an attorney so they are available if the case moves forward. Once a consultation fee has been paid, an attorney can provide in-depth advice, cannot work for the other spouse, and is available if the client needs them in the future. 

Meet with an Arlington Heights Divorce Lawyer

Deciding how to pay for your divorce is an important part of the overall planning process. At A. Traub & Associates, our experienced Arlington Heights, IL divorce attorneys want you to know your options and feel that you have flexibility and control over your divorce. Schedule an initial consultation in our friendly, relaxed office environment to get answers to your questions and learn more about how we can help you. Call us at 847-749-4182.




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